Natalie Portman Surprise DMed Abby Wambach to Offer Shares in Female Majority-Owned Women's Soccer Team
The story of Abby Wambach's role in the history-making Angel City FC soccer team started with a simple — and surprising — direct message from Natalie Portman.
Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, recounted how Portman got her involved with the first female majority-owned women's soccer team while appearing on Tuesday's episode of the podcast The Artist and the Athlete with Lindsay Czarniak.
"I actually got a DM on my phone from Natalie Portman," Wambach, 40, said on the show. "And I'm namedropping Natalie Portman because... I don't know Natalie Portman."
She admitted that she originally thought it was a joke: "She DMed me and was like, 'Can I call you tomorrow?' I was like, 'I guess. Okay, Natalie Portman.' She called me, and it was the day before they were going to release the news that Angel City was going to become an NWSL team. And she said, 'I need to tell you a story.' "
According to Wambach, Portman said that she originally saw the soccer star speak on "the inequities between men and women" a couple years before, at a Time's Up event. That's when Portman realized Los Angeles didn't have a women's soccer team.
The Academy Award-winning actress had gathered a group of other women founders "who want to and can invest money to totally revolutionize the way that professional sports ownership can look like," Wambach said on Tuesday's podcast.
"And they went out and created a female majority-owned team, and then offered — here's the kicker, this is the most important thing — they offered ownership shares at whatever price we wanted [to] the women who built women's soccer in this country," Wambach continued. "So, they got in touch with all the women who had L.A. roots and said, 'Do you want to be involved with this? We would love to have you. You bring whatever you can to the table.' "
It was a no-brainer.
"Of course, before she finished the sentence, I was like, 'Yes, I'm a part of it. Don't take it back, Natalie Portman,' " the FIFA Women's World Cup champion raved. "It was just such a surreal moment."
Wambach and her wife, Glennon Doyle, another team co-owner, decided at that moment to move from their home in Naples, Florida, to L.A., where the team will begin playing as part of the National Women's Soccer League in spring 2022.
Wambach and Portman were announced last July as part of the team's ownership group, which also includes Serena Williams and Williams' 3-year-old daughter, Alexis Olympia Jr., as well as Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria and Lilly Singh.
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"I am thrilled by the opportunity to partner with this incredible group of people to bring a professional women's soccer team to Los Angeles," Portman said in a statement at the time. "Together, we aim to build not only a winning team on the field, but also to develop a passionately loyal fan base."
Former U.S. women's national team players Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Rachel Buehler, Shannon Boxx, Amanda Cromwell, Lorrie Fair Allen, Ronnie Fair Sullins, Joy Fawcett, Angela Hucles, Shannon MacMillan, Tisha Venturini Hoch and Saskia Webber are also co-owners.
"All of us have experience of some marginalization and some form of mistreatment because we were women in a man's world. But here we now have an ability to literally create a new way," Wambach, who has long been an advocate for gender parity in the sport, told The Los Angeles Times in January of why they signed on.
"All of us are attaching ourselves to the idea of the creation of something completely new, because institutionally things need to change," Wambach said.
She continued then: "It's important that us athletes understand our power, understand our experience, and then use it to create a better experience and more power for the next generation, for the future of women's soccer."